The Pulse of Your Workplace: How to Measure Organizational Culture

The Pulse of Your Workplace: How to Measure Organizational Culture

Learn effective strategies and tools to gauge the heartbeat of your company's environment, fostering a positive and productive work culture. Ideal for leaders and HR professionals seeking to enhance team dynamics and drive success.

The Pulse of Your Workplace: How to Measure Organizational Culture

Talking about company culture is all the rage right now — everyone is trying to build it, fix it, and enhance it in a wide variety of ways. But how can you truly know what your company culture is, right now, so that your organization can make needed changes and celebrate what you’re doing well already?

This is why you need to measure culture — and we’ve got your complete guide to doing that right here. Measuring organizational culture might seem almost impossible, as it’s not one defined attribute, and since each company has its own distinct culture. But it’s possible, and it’s critical to measure it so that you actually know where you stand and where you want to go.

Here’s what you need to know about measuring workplace culture so you can make your organization the outstanding place to work you know it can be.  

Define Your Company Culture Goals

Before you start measuring what your organization’s culture is right now, it’s helpful to define what your ideal culture is. What core values would your organization hold? What employee behavior would you celebrate? What decision-making process would you use to make important decisions about the company’s future, including how you hire new employees and promote qualified ones?

These are all important elements of a positive company culture, but every culture is different — so don’t depend on someone else’s definition of great. And don’t be afraid to get really specific here as well, as it will help you create that path to greatness.

Assess Your Existing Culture

Now that you have your ideal culture in mind, it’s time to assess what your existing culture really looks like. And the best source of this cultural information is your existing employees. You can ask them for their honest feedback on your current culture via a mix of methods, including:

You should use as many of these tools as possible to measure your culture accurately, as each metric will give you a slightly different point of view so you can get a holistic view of how employees feel about your culture. And don’t forget to ask the right questions in your surveys to maximize the quality of the feedback too, plus the culture questions you need to ask.

If you want extra feedback, you should also look outside of your current employees and talk to others that your organization reaches. This should definitely include current customers, as they’re the recipients of the effects of your culture and have a unique point of view.

And if you’re concerned about how your company culture is affecting your employer brand and your recruiting efforts, you can also survey job applicants and candidates who made it into the final round. They’re not guaranteed to answer, of course, but any feedback you can get from them will be very valuable.

Finally, you should take a look at what employees and former employees are saying about your company on Glassdoor. While some of the feedback might be hard to hear (or even inaccurate), it’s important nonetheless to view what potential applicants to your company are seeing when they do some quick research.

Use a Few Key Metrics

While gathering many sources of data and viewpoints are great and allow you to get a well-rounded picture of your corporate culture, don’t fall into the common mistake of trying to measure everything everywhere — sometimes too much data can end up drowning you and actually stalling progress.

It’s better to stick to a few key benchmarks and ask several different groups similar questions so you end up with a manageable amount of data to act on. A few critical culture metrics to focus on include:

Recruitment and Retention Metrics

How likely employees are to join your company, and stay there for the long haul, reflects on your company culture. Measuring your retention rates, employee turnover rates, offer acceptance rate, employee referrals, and diversity can all offer valuable perspectives on what your culture is doing right — or wrong.

Employee Engagement Metrics

Measuring employee satisfaction can offer a glimpse into engagement drivers. An eNPS (Employee Net Promoter Score) survey is also a pretty good measure of engagement and feedback about your employee experience overall. If your employees wouldn’t recommend your company as a place to work to their networks, you’ll know you’ve got a serious issue to fix.

Measure Many Parts of the Organization

Your company culture might not be exactly the same in all parts of your organization — and that can present problems and opportunities. It’s critical to measure culture across your whole organization: across departments and teams, and across leadership levels as well, to get a fuller picture of what’s going on.

Different subcultures can develop in specific areas, departments, or leadership levels that have a negative effect on a largely positive culture, or conversely are bright spots in an otherwise negative culture. And your organization can learn from both situations.

One way to find these negative pockets, if you’re concerned they exist, is by looking at turnover rates by department, team, and level. You might spot some interesting trends that point to a larger culture problem in a specific area, and then you can run focus groups or more targeted surveys to learn more.

Focus on What Matters Most

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed at where to begin measuring your culture, you can start with the five attributes that MIT Sloan research has determined are the five most toxic culture attributes.

  • Disrespectful: lack of consideration, courtesy, and dignity for others
  • Noninclusive: for LGBT+ people, for disabled people, by race or age or gender, or just generally not inclusive
  • Unethical: unethical behavior, dishonesty, or a lack of regulatory compliance
  • Cutthroat: backstabbing behavior and ruthless competition
  • Abusive: bullying, hostility and harassment

The research notes that these five attributes are the biggest drivers of employee turnover, so focusing on these areas first can help you effectively root out the most toxic elements of your workplace faster.

Be Honest and Realistic

Once you’ve gathered your metrics and assessed your cultural weak points, you might encounter some resistance to making real and sustained changes. It’s hard to hear negative things about the organization you work for, but that doesn’t mean that negative feedback is wrong.

Also, your executives in particular may have a much different view of the company’s culture than your HR teams and individual employees. SHRM research found that 72% of leaders think their company culture has improved since the beginning of the pandemic — while only 21% of HR professionals and 14% of employees agree.

That means you might need to win over some executive hearts and minds to get this feedback heard and changes made. But the data you’ve collected in qualitative and quantitative forms should help HR teams make a strong case for fixing the things that are broken in your culture, while still celebrating what’s working well.

Measuring and Improving Company Culture

Once you’ve measured your culture, you’ll need to create an action plan to start making any needed improvements, and keep following up with surveys to measure your progress. Cooleaf is a comprehensive employee engagement platform that makes it easy to recognize and reward employees for their hard work, and to check in via surveys on their engagement and satisfaction rates too. Try it today!

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